Telethon raises Dh25m for Pakistan

Television presenters, actors and clerics urged viewers to dig deep in their pockets to help raise 100m as target for flood victims.

ABU DHABI // Television presenters, actors and clerics last night urged viewers to dig deep in their pockets to help those whose lives have been washed away by the devastating floods in Pakistan. On the first day of a three-day telethon to collect urgently needed financial aid for 20 million displaced people, Dh25 million in donations was raised, a quarter of the Dh100 million target.

The announcement was met with cheers in the packed Abu Dhabi TV studios. The media campaign, called Awnkum, or "Your Help", was organised by the UAE's Red Crescent Authority (RCA) on the directive of Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE. "We raised more than we expected to on the first day, so we are very pleased," said Abdulraheem al Bateeh, the director of news at Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC), which publishes The National.

"But we have high hopes that on Friday, especially in the hours after iftar, we will get the most donations, pushing us over the Dh100million goal that we have set for ourselves," he said. "We are predicting that on a Friday evening, families will be together in front of the TV and aware by then of what we have been doing for three days. We expect to be wowed." Yesterday's largest donations, of Dh5million each, came from Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the widow of Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE, and Darwish bin Ahmad and Sons Group, an Emirati company.

Sheikha Osha bint Khalifa bin Zayed, daughter of Sheikh Khalifa, donated Dh3 million. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region and chairman of the RCA, gave Dh1million, as did Sultan bin Rashid al Dhaheri. The UAE is sending between six and nine aid planes a day to Pakistan, and has so far delivered 180 tonnes of humanitarian assistance, according to news reports broadcast on the telethon.

Khurshid Ahmed Junejo, the Pakistani ambassador to the UAE, said the need was "huge". "We are very appreciative of all that is being done but we need more than that because with regards to this natural catastrophe, it is very huge and regarding our budget to rebuild, what we have is not enough, which is why we need help from every direction and every country," he told viewers. Mr Junejo quoted Unicef figures showing that 1.2 million houses were destroyed by the floods, affecting 20 million people, of whom 6.5 million are children. In addition to money, as winter approaches flood victims are in need of tents, food, clean water and medicines, he said. Humanitarian workers, Muslim scholars and actors from the UAE, Kuwait and Syria also appeared, among them Wafaa al Mosali, the Syrian star of the popular Ramadan soap opera Bab el Hara, and the Emirati actor Ahmed al Jissmi. Mr al Jissmi asked viewers to imagine the suffering Pakistanis are going through. "Fathers, imagine if you lost your family, and mothers, imagine if you lost a child," he said. "This is a catastrophe, there is no other way to describe it. These are innocent people who need our help, and it is our duty." Dr Abdelmuti Bayoumi, a professor of Sharia at Al Azhar University in Cairo, said the current worry is the spread of disease, especially malaria, cholera and diarrhoea among children, which will require added funding. "At least 20 per cent of the health facilities in Pakistan have been destroyed in those regions affected," he said. The telethon will be broadcast live twice a day on Abu Dhabi TV, Abu Dhabi al Emarat, Abu Dhabi Poet and National Geographic Abu Dhabi. Channels in Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al Khaimah, Ajman and Fujairah are expected to provide coverage as well. Viewers are encouraged to tune in before iftar from 4-6pm and after the Isha prayers from 9.30-10.30pm tonight, and from 9.30pm until midnight tomorrow. Donations can be made by text message, phone or in person at the RCA's tents at any time. The telethon also featured live news feeds from Pakistan, near the Multan air base in the country's south. One old women surrounded by her children voiced an appeal to cameras. "We haven't eaten in four days, but we will fast for Ramadan," she said. "We have no idea when we will have our iftar or where we will find the food. God alone knows." hkhalaf@thenational.ae

Telethon hotline: call tollfree 800RED or 800733 Text Etisalat: to donate Dh10: 6881, Dh50: 6885, Dh100: 4611, Dh200: 5200 Text du: to donate Dh10: 7110, Dh50: 7150, Dh100: 7100, Dh200: 7200 People can also donate in person at the RCA tents in Abu Dhabi's Marina Mall, Al Wahda Mall and RCA headquarters on Muroor Road. Money can be sent to the following account numbers, set up by the RCA: Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank 20000491 Dubai Islamic Bank 003 520 5205344 01 Sharjah Islamic Bank 0060 445518 010. Donations accepted anytime until midnight tomorrow